Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kicked out of Purgatory -- and into the Soviet Union


I mean, what else can you say about today's front-page story in the Durango Herald, "Durango Mountain Resort pulls critic's pass." I checked: It was definitely the Nov. 19 paper, not April 1.

Wow. It'd be funny, if it wasn't so sad.

And I don't mean sad for the critic -- she called Telluride Ski Area, told them her situation, and got a pass over there.

I mean sad for all of us who care for and have supported Purgatory (a.k.a. Durango Mountain Resort, if you like lots of syllables) for so many years. I mean sad that this is what "leadership" at our favorite local ski area has come to.

Look, let's face it: We all who ski here, live here, and work here have a stake in helping Purgatory succeed. And that's why the local community has a right -- hell, a responsibility -- to discuss decisions and actions by the management of our local ski resort in public forums, including (and especially) the local newspaper. Because those decisions affect us all.

This includes controversial decisions -- like making post-sale changes to the conditions upon advertised and pricey products like season and weekday passes. (Read about the proposed changes to Purgatory's passes that started the bruhahah here.) I'm not saying that decision was right or wrong, good or bad -- but it is big, and people -- especially those who laid out the cash to buy those passes, thereby helping the resort -- have a right to question and discuss those changes.

But is this really the way to do it? To revoke the ski pass -- and in such a cowardly, adolescent way -- of someone voicing their questions and reactions in the paper? (Read the letter from the resort explaining the revocation of the season pass here.) Is this quality leadership? Is this good community-building? Is this shared investment in our local resort? Maybe -- in the Josef Stalin School of Business.

According to the Herald, DMR CEO Gary Derck "said that (critic) Lauren Slaff's comments to The Durango Herald caused 'concern and confusion' among employees and customers, and the management team decided it would be best to'"part ways.'"

Uh ... huh? Gary, you want confusion? Stand in the lift lines at the six-pack or quad on a busy day. You want concern? Try sitting, freezing and in a blizzard, on a stalled Lift 8 for a half an hour.

But I digress. Besides, those quaint aspects of the Purgatory experience give the place charm and character. It's what we love about it.

And we do love it. And you don't hear us complaining up those. Much. Because we need each other, Purgatory and its locals. So let me phrase it this way: You want confusion? Try laying out several hundred hard-earned (we're not all CEO's, Gary) dollars for a ski pass to your favorite local ski, and finding out the management has decided to change what you bought. Want concern? Try finding out that if you speak up -- in our proud American tradition of speaking up -- about your confusion, that management will arbitrarily and childishly just "part ways" with you and that product.

Now that's leadership. Soviet style.

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